If you’ve ever been to Arizona, you know that this state’s natural beauty—from the Grand Canyon to the Apache Trail to Lake Mead—is unparalleled. It’s an absolute thrill to behold. As a matter of fact, Arizona is a pretty exciting state all around, and in today’s post, we’re going to tell you where the action is in some of the more urban habitats.
So which place was the most exciting in the state? According to our latest analysis at the Movoto Real Estate blog, that honor goes to Tempe, with nightlife, arts, restaurants, and, of course, ASU. But more on our winner in a moment. First, here are the 10 most exciting places in the Grand Canyon State:
1. City of Tempe
2. City of Flagstaff
3. City of Tucson
4. City of Scottsdale
5. City of Prescott
6. City of Cottonwood
7. Town of Paradise Valley
8. City of Chandler
9. City of Phoenix (tie)
9. City of Casas Adobes (tie)
If you’re excited to know how we came up with this list, well, settle down and just keep reading. We’ll go over the method behind it, and we’ll also tell you just what makes each of these places more fan-freaking-tastic than the next.
How We Got These Exciting Results
Like all of our other Big Deal Lists, we started at one of the most exciting places on the web: The U.S. Census. Here, we made a list of all of the places in Arizona with populations of 10,000 or more, which left us with a total of 66 places to look at. Then, we used the Census and business listings to find information about the following eight criteria:
- Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
- Live music venues per capita
- Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
- Arts and Entertainment per capita (movie theaters, festivals, galleries, theaters, etc.)
- Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
- Percentage of restaurants that are not fast food (the higher the better)
- Percentage of young residents ages 18 to 34 (the higher the better)
- Population density (the higher the better)
Here’s where things got exciting. We ranked each of our 66 places with scores from one to 66; the closer to one the score was, the more exciting the place. Then we averaged these scores for an overall Big Deal Score for each location (no big deal), and the place with the lowest overall score was our winner.
If that math wasn’t thrilling enough for you, keep reading, because we’re about to dive into each place and find out just what makes them so exciting. And if you simply can’t handle the anticipation, you can hop down to the bottom of the post and see a ranking of the 50 most exciting places in the state.
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Tempe residents that their hometown came in at No. 1. After all, Tempe is home to ASU, one of the nation’s top party schools, according to none other than Playboy Magazine.
And what do the whopping 43.92 percent of the population who are between 18 and 34 like to do in Tempe? Well, according to our analysis, they like to party—and, of course, sweat it out at the gym. Tempe ranked fifth in the categories of nightlife, music venues, and active life options per capita.
If partying isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Might we suggest the Tempe Center for the Arts?
Our No. 2 place, Flagstaff, may not be quite as densely populated as Tempe, but it has nearly the same percentage of people between 18 and 34: 41.76 percent. That’s because Flagstaff is home to two colleges, Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College.
Just like anywhere else, college kids in Flagstaff tend to draw the nightlife. This city ranked seventh for its nightlife options per capita, and also stood out for its arts per capita. From crafts stores like Painted Desert Trading Company to unique galleries like the Hive (which, let’s be honest, is a hell of a lot more than a gallery), if you have an creative side, Flagstaff is your city.
Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, with over 520,000 residents, so when we tell you that 29.25 percent of this population is between the ages of 18 and 34, you just know that’s a whole lot of young people. It’s the sixth highest amount in the state, actually.
According to our analysis Tucson residents, both young and old, are privy to all sorts of excitement, especially when it comes to arts, nightlife, and active life options. In fact with the Museum of Contemporary Art, galleries galore, bars like Club Congress and the Surly Wench, and more gyms, running clubs, trails, and fitness centers than you can count—the only problem might be figuring out where to start.
This affluent city may not exactly be a hotspot for people between the ages of 18 and 34, but that certainly doesn’t seem to stop it from being exciting. Even with its relatively small young population (just 18.94 percent), Scottsdale had far more nightlife and music venues per capita than most other places in the state, ranking third and ninth in these categories, respectively.
Scottsdale ranked well both in the categories of arts and active life. After all, this city is well known, not only for its beautiful and vibrant art scene, from the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts to the variety of galleries dotted around town; but it is also well known for its beautiful and fit residents.
Just like Scottsdale before it, this city in Yavapai County isn’t exactly one of the youngest on our list—just 17.17 percent of its population is between 18 and 34—and yet, for both its number of nightlife options and music venues per capita, Prescott ranked fourth.
It also ranked well for its arts (fourth), non-boring (as in non-fast food) restaurants, and best of all, for its number of active life options per capita, in which it ranked third. Perhaps this has something to do with the beautiful golf courses that dot the area, like Antelope Hills Golf Course and Prescott Lakes Golf Club, or maybe it’s all those sporting goods stores. Whatever the case, Prescott residents have plenty of options for keeping active.
Another city in Yavapai County, Cottonwood ranked well in our analysis for many of the same reasons that Prescott did—tons of nightlife options per capita, like the Rendezvous in Old Town and Kactus Kate’s Saloon (a fun little dive bar); plenty of music venues, and a bustling art community.
As a matter of fact, Cottonwood was second only to Sedona for its number of arts per capita, which is a feat, considering Sedona had more listings labeled “art” than it has people labeling themselves as “spiritual.” Zing!
7. Paradise Valley
Take me down to Paradise Valley where the grass is green and the girls are… excited to be there, because this place is awesome. Okay, not the original lyrics, but you get the idea.
Paradise Valley is awesome, and exciting, due to its high number of active life options, music venues, and nightlife per capita. Where it really stood out, though, was in its number of non-fast food restaurants per capita.There’s Elements with some of the best fillet mignon in the state, El Chorro with those ridiculously good sticky buns, Tottie’s Asian Food for pad Thai that’s to die for.
Unlike some of the places on our list which scored particularly well in only one or two categories, Chandler ranked well pretty consistently across the board (except for its population density, which blew the others away, ranking fourth).
Of that dense population, nearly 24 percent of folks were between the ages of 18 and 34, and so it may not be surprising that there are a high number of music venues, active life, and nightlife options per capita here. It’s also the home of Saigon Pho, which residents know, is just about all the culinary excitement your taste buds need.
With over a 1.4 million residents, Phoenix is not only the largest city in the state, but one of the largest in the nation. So what is it doing down here at No. 9? Doesn’t bigger mean better? Maybe in Texas, but we’re in Arizona. Plus, we took into account amenities per capita, rather than the total number.
Even so, there was one impressive number that had nothing to do with amenities, and that was the 25.92 percent of the population between 18 and 34, ranking 13th in this category. So many young people can only mean one thing… bars, lots of bars.
Okay, it can mean a couple of things. Phoenix also ranked well for its arts and music venues per capita.
9. Casas Adobes
Where Phoenix ranked better across the board in our categories, our second No. 9 city, Casas Adobes, had a few shining points that, when averaged out, made all the difference.
For example, it ranked seventh for both its number of music venues and arts options per capita, and fifth overall for its number of non-fast food restaurants per capita. There’s Wildflower for those who are gluten-free, Chef Alisah’s Restaurant for Mediterranean, Guiseppe’s for Italian, and of course, Frost A Gelato Shoppe for some of the creamiest ice cream your mouth has ever met.
Way More Than Just Naturally Beautiful
Okay, we can’t really downplay Arizona’s natural beauty. It’s like nothing else in the country. But after looking at these numbers, we can at least suggest that these 10 cities—especially you, Tempe—are just as exciting as the state is beautiful.
If you didn’t see your hometown in our list of 10, check out the table below where you’ll find the top 50 exciting places in the state.